“Exceptional. EXCEPTional. Exceptional!”
This was Julianna earlier this year, muttering to herself like she often did any time she was not directly engaged in conversation or play. It was an endearing but mostly incomprehensible habit.
Julianna’s hospice volunteer shared this memory with me. She observed her one morning saying the word “exceptional” over and over. J had found a new word, and she was exploring it. She probably liked the way it sounded, and I’m certain that she liked what it meant. (Another endearing habit: she frequently claimed that she didn’t know what a word meant – right after she had used it perfectly in a sentence. The girl had context.)
I love this image of her. She adored words; she was exceptional. Of course she should delight in the word “exceptional.” It just fits.
Communication through spoken word was vitally important to Julianna. As stupid CMT took hold, volume and enunciation diminished and it was hard to understand her words. This frustrated her, often to the point of tears.
In her last year, something changed. Maybe we got better at listening, or maybe she made peace with her voice. Calmly, she would repeat herself and enunciate each syllable until we got it.
I like words too, and they’re not coming easily these days. I hope this passes, because Julianna’s story didn’t end with her death.
In the last post, I wrote that there are no new stories. This is stunningly and painfully true, but only in the literal sense. I know that there is meaning and context yet to be discovered in the old stories, the ones show how a five-year-old girl taught us what it means to truly live.
Exceptional: that she was.